Contexturally: Grouper – “Headache”

By Kiah Easton, Columns Editor

Music is unique when compared to other forms of media in that it has the innate ability to be paired with other experiences separate from what was intended by the artist.

Music can always be in the background, bleeding into everything that you do. At least for me, the things I see or the places I find myself, often translate or connect themselves in my mind to certain pieces of music.

Although my experience with a song won’t be the same as someone else’s, just the experience of combining music and visuals can almost create a new form of media, which I will write about here. This column is a description of those connections I make between visual and sonic moments.

Read more: Album Review: Hannah Diamond – Reflections

Sitting in the top room of the Catalyst Cafe at 2:35 p.m., the sun sparkles through the windows. Outside of is a view of White’s Mill. Below the white building, you can see the subtle dance of the river rapids.

It is February, and the trees are still leafless. The ground is a soggy mess of green and brown, especially on the banks of the Hocking River in this particular section. The water is a nondescript brown—it’s muted and extremely unremarkable.

There’s something beautiful about the blandness.

The song “Headache” by Grouper plays in my headphones. The muted wet browns of the scenery mimic the low pass filtered guitar in the song, dull and in the background.

The guitar chugs along in a hypnotic way. It feels still and preserved while simultaneously moving. The water moves slowly as every wave blends into itself until the river looks respectively calm.

Grouper’s voice resembles the sparkles that spring from the water, only to disappear back into the brown. Drenched in reverb and only slightly louder than a whisper, her moans undulate, blending in with the dull emotional instrumental, popping out at moments and riding above the mush. 

This spot, moment, image and song all have a kind of depressing beauty. It looks, feels and sounds sad but somehow not in a way that makes the listener sad. That feeling of being OK with the depressiveness of your surroundings is serene.

This feeling can be extrapolated to a lot of what small-town Ohio feels like. Ordinary, brown, quiet and beautiful in a still, reflective way—an empty canvas onto which the people who live here paint their emotions, memories and experiences.

Try it out. Come to the second floor of the Catalyst at 2:35 p.m. in February, and sit quietly with “Headache” seeping into your brain through whatever audio listening device you possess.

Tweet me @easton_kiah if you feel the same. 

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